Sports

American men suffer first loss at FIVB World Cup

 

After a first set in which everything seemed to go right, things went downhill for the U.S. Men's National Team, which fell to Poland, 17-25, 25-15, 25-23, 25-15 on Monday in an FIVB World Cup match at the Yoyogi National Gymnasium.

The U.S. Men suffered their first loss of the World Cup and are now 8-1. Poland improved to 9-0 and leads the tournament.

The U.S. Men will play Russia (7-2) on Tuesday at 1:10 a.m. PT. Russia lost its second match of the tournament to Italy on Monday, 3-0. Teams at the World Cup play 11 matches in 16 days in a round-robin format. The top two teams qualify for the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro.

first match of the World Cup that the U.S. did not lead in aces and also the first that it had fewer than seven aces. Poland led in aces, 9-3 and the U.S. had 20 service errors.

"We made a lot of mistakes from the service line and that's one of the things that has kept us undefeated up until this point is our service and reception," U.S. Team Captain David Lee said. "We just weren't there and we didn't execute at the level that we have been."

With Poland serving so tough, receivers struggled to get the ball to setter Micah Christenson. The U.S. hitting efficiency was .310. Poland's was .333. U.S. blockers led 10-8, paced by Lee, who had a match-high three.

"Poland played a phenomenal match, especially from the service line," Lee said. "After that first set, it was really difficult for our team to stay in rhythm because they were serving us off the court. It made it difficult for our offense to be effective."

Opposite Matt Anderson and outside hitter Aaron Russell each finished with 12 points to lead the United States. Anderson scored on 10 kills and two blocks. It was his first World Cup match without an ace. Russell had 11 kills and one block.

"We were not skilled enough tonight," U.S. Head Coach John Speraw said. "We didn't play with enough variety. We just weren't ready to win this match yet, which is disappointing, but maybe where this team is at this moment."

The U.S. looked strong in the first set, jumping out to an 8-5 lead at the first technical timeout (TTO) and extending it to 22-16. The plays of the first set included a ball that ricocheted off Christenson's foot that the U.S. got back over the net and eventually scored on a Max Holt block. On another play, Anderson had to extend his arms over the barrier on the left side of the court to pass a ball back in bounds, which Russell promptly put away for a kill.

Poland claimed the momentum in the second set, leading 16-9 at the second TTO and increasing it to 19-11.

Christenson opened the third set with a serving run, including two aces in a row broken up by a timeout, to give the U.S. and 4-0 lead. The U.S. still led by four at 9-5, but Poland chipped away at the lead and eventually tied the score at 13-13. The score was still tied at 22-22 when Poland scored on two straight kills. Russell came back to score with an attack, but the United States' next serve went out of bounds.

Poland led 7-4 in the fourth set when the U.S. served into the net and Poland's Mateusz Bieniek served for the four points, including two straight aces and two straight Poland blocks. The U.S. never threatened.

— B.J. Evans/USA volleyball

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